Outraged at the two month detention of Moscow freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov media outlets across Russia have replaced images with plain black or grey rectangles on their web sites. Sinyakov was arrested while photographing about 30 Greenpeace activists and crew protesting at a Gazprom oil platform in the Arctic.
Defying the attack on his journalistic independence in court in Murmansk, Sinyakov said “The criminal activity I am blamed for is called journalism, I will keep doing it.”
An attempt by Greenpeace protestors to climb the Gazprom platform was halted when the Russian authorities seized the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, and towed it to Murmansk with all on board. Film of the action shot from the oil rig and showing live fire has been posted on YouTube.
Greenpeace say that the protest is over Gazprom’s plans “to become the first oil company in the world to produce oil commercially from beyond the Arctic ice line”. According to the Greenpeace web site the oil could reach European customers by 2014.
Russia has a tough policy against protestors most famously against the feminist punk group Pussy Riot who Sinyakov photographed in Red Square.
Before turning freelance Moscow-based Sinyakov worked as a photo editor and staff photographer for Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Married, with a young child, Denis has covered the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan, the Israeli-Lebanese war of 2006, Turkish-Kurdish tensions, the Russian-Georgian war and Afghanistan. Since 2012 he has concentrated on environmental issues, human rights, politics and the economy.
UK freelance Nick Cobbing, who was due to take over from Sinyakov on the Arctic Sunrise, commented, “If coming under fire below the Prirazlomnaya oil platform isn’t enough, try being seized by Russian security forces and held captive along with 30 of your crewmates. Denis Sinyakov didn’t know what was in store as the Arctic Sunrise was towed to the port of Murmansk. Under armed guard he still managed to snatch a picture through a porthole and send by cellphone as the ship came into signal”.
“Denis is passionately aware of the significance of the job he is doing” said Cobbing. “It shocked me to the core when news broke on Twitter that he faced two months in jail”. Examples of Denis’ work can be seen at Redux Pictures, the Reuters Blog and Denis Sinyakov’s own web site.
The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the imprisonment of Denis Sinyakov for simply doing his job. “This is a deeply worrying decision that violates press freedom and freedom of expression” said IFJ President Jim Broumelha.
Nina Ognianova of the Committee to Protect Journalists commented “The idea that freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov was engaging in piracy with his camera is laughable,” said Ognianova. “The only thing he intended to take from the scene was pictures. Authorities should release Sinyakov immediately and drop the ridiculous accusations against him.”
• Greenpeace have set up a petition in support of Denis Sinyakov and the Greenpeace activists. Over 600,000 emails have been sent so far say Greenpeace.
• More about Greenpeace and Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform and the arrest and detention of 30 Greenpeace activists and crew.
** On September 30th the Press Gazette reported that British video journalist Kieron Bryan was among those held by the Russian authorities. Bryan’s parents told reporters “Our son is a very kind, caring individual and environmental issues have always been very close to his heart. He would sympathise with the cause but he was simply there doing his job as a freelance videographer.” **
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